Arsenal in with more than a Sporting chance after securing draw in Lisbon

Unlucky own goal from Hidemasa Morita gives Gunners the upper hand in Europa League tie

Sporting Lisbon 2 Arsenal 2

This will have made stressful viewing for a manager who values control as much as Mikel Arteta. For neutrals it was fine entertainment, though, and Arsenal can at least reflect they are just about in the box seat for a place in the Europa League quarter-finals.

An unfussy first-leg advantage over Sporting seemed possible when William Saliba scored midway through the first half, but Goncalo Inacio quickly equalised and the chances flowed at both ends after that.

Paulinho converted one for Sporting after half-time but Arsenal’s own swift riposte, delivered through Hidemasa Morita’s unlucky own goal, ensured parity. Arteta will hope for a more composed display at the Emirates next week.

He had picked six of his established Premier League starters in a selection that was consistent with the respect he has shown this competition. Any temptation to add Martin Ødegaard was scotched by illness that saw the captain, who had travelled, sit out; Eddie Nketiah, Leandro Trossard and Kieran Tierney, the latter also unwell, were among those unable to make the journey.


In a low-key atmosphere, the stadium still filling up on account of the early kick-off and problems on the metro, Arsenal’s start was fittingly languid. Within six minutes they were let off, Pedro Goncalves leaving Jorginho for dead before cutting inside and shooting well wide when the chance had opened up. Sporting were bright and, moments later, Matheus Reis raced past the debutant Jakub Kiwior but could not locate a team-mate with his cutback.

The home side are fourth in their domestic set-up and 15 points adrift of its leaders, Benfica. They had beaten Tottenham here in the Champions League, though, keeping a clean sheet. Arsenal had rarely threatened to go one better than their rivals before the opener although Sporting, and particularly their goalkeeper, Adan, had looked shaky when pressed.

They were breached from a corner, though, and the goal could hardly have been simpler. Fabio Vieira’s inswinger from the right was met by Saliba’s jump and, from six yards, he glanced precisely across Adan. A minor dust-up ensued, Sebastian Coates feeling Oleksandr Zinchenko had fouled Reis as the ball came in and letting the Ukrainian know. Both players were booked, meaning the skipper Coates will miss the second leg.

Zinchenko soon had a go at doubling the lead, lashing at the rebound after his free-kick had struck the wall, but Adan tipped over. Arsenal looked in control, the home support audibly irritable, and it was a surprise when they conceded a goal almost identical to their own.

Inacio had shot speculatively from 30 yards, bothering Matt Turner enough to force a tip wide. From the right-sided corner, taken by Marcus Edwards, he rose above a rooted Kiwior and buried his header. Kiwior had appeared to duck, maybe expecting Turner to claim.

As half-time neared Edwards drew a smart stop from Turner before Granit Xhaka nodded another corner against a combination of Adan and a post. It had been a frayed affair and Turner added to the sense of chaos when he passed straight to Paulinho, who could not capitalise.

Soon enough Paulinho would be altogether more influential. Arsenal had looked likelier scorers early in the second half, Adan denying Gabriel Martinelli’s angled chip after Zinchenko played him in before watching as the forward headed a decent chance over. Vieira shot wide between the two and a failure to convert in that spell proved costly.

Sporting awoke and kept up the pressure after Ben White had cut out a cross by Ricardo Esgaio. Eventually Goncalves shot from an angle and, after Turner parried, Paulinho gobbled up at close range. He had also scored against Spurs and, in a crazy subsequent spell, should have had another.

Martinelli had just run two third of the pitch’s length, only being denied by a remarkable saving tackle from Jerry St Juste, when Paulinho was sent clear inside the Arsenal box. Rather than put the night’s outcome virtually beyond doubt, he skewed high and wide.

The game had never settled into a pattern but this was now wild, unruly fun. Arsenal came again and the equaliser, just after the hour, was appropriately strange. Xhaka sought Martinelli with an attempted through pass that Morita, attempting to block, sent to a wrong-footed Adan’s right with a huge deflection.

Both sides continued to press, Adan saving brilliantly from Vieira’s header, but substitutions killed much of the momentum late on and the tie remains delicately poised. – Guardian